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Trump Report Card: State of the Union Address 2019

Melania and Grace
This is not my reaction to what I liked or didn’t like, agreed with or didn’t agree with, regarding the policies enunciated in President Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address.  It is not a verdict on what I think was true or not true (fact checking).  It is not my opinion on whether I like or dislike him personally or as President.  I find SOTUs by all Presidents to have little relationship to reality, so no need to go there.

This is my evaluation of President Trump’s speech (1) as political theater, one of the distractions designed to keep us from thinking rationally about what is happening to our country, and (2) in terms of how well he achieved his political goals—which presumably includes being reelected in 2020.

In other words, this is a report card for a class in Political Performance 101—an elective in both the theater/performance art department and the political science department of Franke University.

Understood in this way, I give him a grade of A+.

Simply stated, it was the best State of the Union address I have seen since Reagan.

Nobody is as surprised about this performance as I am.  Whatever we think of the merits of his policy positions, or how he has actually succeeded in enacting them, we are used to meandering remarks interrupted by egotistical outbursts, usually in response to some criticism.  Not last night.

Yes, it was crafted by his speechwriters.  That is true with almost all presidents.  But he accepted and approved it.  And he delivered it without spontaneous interjections that distracted from the intended message.

President Trump has generally improved in his prepared remarks over the first two years of his presidency.  But this was the best yet.

He framed the message on his terms: “It is time to put blind partisanship behind us.  That is what I am doing.  Let’s see if they are willing to do that too.”  (And they were squirming in their seats at this point, but what could they do—he had the podium, they didn’t.)

He wore the white hat:  And that was more important than their white suits.  He was the Good Sheriff going after the child predators, the violent gang members, the drug smuggling cartels.  By inference he took credit for criminal justice reform and other actions Mother Theresa would approve of.  And he specifically took credit for avoiding war with North Korea.

He made his most vocal opponents look like mean-spirited sourpusses:  Or rather they did that to themselves.  Obviously, they had no clue beforehand that yes, their white uniforms would draw more attention to them, but that attention is not good if you come across as a dour gang only bent on opposition and vengeance.

And the cameras cooperated:  At least on Fox News, which is the channel I watched.  AOC looked thoroughly distressed throughout the speech, and refused even any polite applause.  Most of the 25 Democratic presidential candidates looked equally distressed.  Bernie wasn’t laughing or applauding when the Prez declared “America will never be a socialist country”; he just looked like he had eaten some spoiled food for dinner beforehand.  I had to chuckle whenever the gals in white would turn to each other in panic: “OMG, what should we do?  Should we (gasp) stand up to applaud him?  But if we don’t, we’ll look like we are on the side of the child predators!”  And the military brass looked just as glum when he promised “no more endless wars.”  What—is he going to take away our jobs?

Then there was the balcony:  Of course, the introduced guests in the balcony appealed to our best instincts and reminded us of what we want our country to be like.  In the most unforgettable scene, we visualized a child headed for the Nazi concentration camp in a train car, but being rescued at the last moment by American soldiers.  Only now, incredibly almost 75 years later, they were old men standing side by side, and the Jewish kid put his hand in admiration on the shoulder of the teenage boy who was one of the American soldiers who rescued him.

Reagan, being a movie actor, started that flourish in his State of the Union addresses, but nobody has done it as effectively as the reality TV star did last night.

Drama test:  A+

Political Science test: A+

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Democrats Deride the Master Showman, but he outclasses them

Purely as a speech delivered, it wasn't exciting, but that was never the point.
A master showman had his chance to set the stage and line up the exploding cigars, and the Dems walked into every one of his traps. GOD, Life, Liberty, America! And, no God-Damn Socialism on his watch - priceless!